August is known as National Family Fun Month! As the school year approaches, and life gets busy again, now is a good time to take advantage of the end of summer to spend quality time with family and enjoy the gift of leisure together! Family fun that is oriented toward familial unity, and ultimately encourages a relationship with Christ, will have tangible benefits on your family’s whole health!

As Catholics parents, we are called to nourish our children’s development in spirit, mind, and body as their first teachers (CCC, 2223).  With this in mind, how can we create fun, yet meaningful, opportunities that enhance and cultivate our family life?

In Spirit

When selecting an activity for your family, ask yourself this question “how can this activity impact my family spiritually?” While being mindful of the unique and particular dynamics that affect each member of your family unit, from infants to adults, is there a way for this activity to lead you, as a collective group, closer to Christ?

The Holy Family and The Holy Trinity by Gregorio Vasquez de Arce y Ceballos, 17th-Century {{PD-US}}

Regardless of the destination, event, or activity you chose, a way to incorporate spirituality into your chosen form of fun can be something as simple as praying a family rosary before it begins or on the way there (if travel is required). Another might be to simply stop and pray in thanksgiving as a family for the joyful time He has given you to be together, both before and after engaging in your leisurely activities.

In Mind

As human persons, our capacities and natural inclinations are constantly being formed in part by familial and social experiences.[1] What we experience and perceive, especially as children, has the ability to shape and form our minds for better or for worse.

The second question you might ask as you plan fun activities for your family that supports its whole health is, “what effects will this activity have on the minds of my spouse and children?” Is the activity you’re engaging in cultivating or evoking cognitions and perceptions that promote beauty, goodness, and truth or something else?

By choosing activities that allow for exposure to nature and its natural beauty, you can also promote your family’s mental wellbeing! In fact, researchers found that during the COVID-19 lockdowns, exposure to nature was associated with decreased levels of mental stress.[2] Consider a trip to a nearby river, lake, or beach to unwind and have some water fun with your kids.

In Body

Likewise, choosing nature-oriented activities can also contribute to your family’s physical health by encouraging movement and exposure to vitamin D! It can be tempting to fill summer days with activities that are primarily sedentary or include large amounts of technology but using the summertime to encourage healthy physical activity can be a fun way to promote whole health as a family. As the average person should be getting around 30 min of physical activity a day,[3] when considering where to visit and what to do, look for adventures that encourage hiking, or exploring outside. Activities like this can develop into healthy habits that encourage physical activity as a family and an active recognition that our bodies are gifts from God when joined with prayer!

You may also want to consider the accessibility of healthy food options as a way of honoring your physical bodies. Summer is the best season for produce, and it is often easy to find both fruits and vegetables that are in season (and due to this, cheaper!). A fun, family activity might involve a visit to a local u-pick farm, or even your Saturday morning farmer’s market. Making colorful, fresh food a priority for your family can having lasting positive effects for their whole health.

We wish you a safe, healthy, and fun conclusion of the summer this National Family Fun Month!

[1] Vitz, P. C., Nordling, W. J., & Titus, C. S. (2020). A Catholic Christian Meta-Model of the Person: Integration with Psychology & Mental Health Practice. Divine Mercy University Press.

[2] Ribeiro, A. I., Triguero-Mas, M., Jardim Santos, C., Gómez-Nieto, A., Cole, H., Anguelovski, I., Silva, F. M., & Baró, F. (2021). Exposure to nature and mental health outcomes during covid-19 lockdown. a comparison between portugal and spain. Environment International154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2021.106664

[3] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20057916